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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Doug's Domain

Doug Vetter, ATP/CFI

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September 8, 2004

Steering Rack Installed

(Image: Old steering rack)I was feeling a bit wise-cracky this morning as I walked up to my service adviser and said in a serious tone, "Hey, I have a problem. I think the car is having an affair with [my mechanic]. She keeps making excuses to see him." In an equally serious and supportive tone he looked me square in the eyes and said "That's impossible, Doug, he's a married man!" We naturally broke out of character at that point and smiled. "We doing just the steering rack today?", he inquired." For her sake, I hope so!", I pleaded.

As planned, I had the new steering rack installed today. There's not much to say about it than I already have, aside from that my mechanic completed the job on time as usual and the steering does feel a bit tighter and smoother as a result. I had a 330 loaner today and got to feel what the new cars feel like, and have to admit that the new rack feels a lot like the 330. I can't honestly say it feels like my car when it was new, because I've frankly forgotten what that felt like. The car now has over 103K miles, after all.

(Image: New steering rack installed)Because I knew the rack included a core charge of $170 and I couldn't keep it as a souvenir, I asked my mechanic if he could hang on to it for a short time so I could come back and take pictures for the site. As usual, he agreed. Looks a little like an advanced assault weapon, doesn't it? :-) Then again, I better watch what I say, or the Feds will be knocking on the door with a search warrant. After all, we mere mortals can't own so much as a water pistol that even remotely looks like an assault weapon. Ah, but I digress.

This particular rack's casing had 10/97 stamped on it. If your rack has failed, I'd like to know the casting date. I doubt this is a quality control issue, but it never hurts to compare data. I've come to accept that some things on a BMW just simply wear out on a regular basis, but I wouldn't have expected this to be one of those parts, particularly after only 100K miles. I've never known anyone to replace a steering rack on any car, foreign or domestic -- power steering pumps, yes, steering racks, certainly not. "Discuss".

(Image: Alignment Results)If you look at the picture of the undercarriage, you can get a good idea of how the rack integrates with the front end. The two rods extending from the rack are the primary means of steering, so installation of a rack is about as critical as brakes, in my opinion.

Because removal of the rack affects the front end alignment, $125 of the cost of swapping the rack involved running the car through the alignment machine to verify everything was within tolerances. This data confirmed that I haven't bent anything and that I should get maximum life from this set of tires. Good thing too, if you recall how much they cost!

Chances are you'll never have to put a steering rack in a BMW, but if you do, at least you now know what to look for and what to expect in terms of cost.

Total Parts and Labor: $1036, Mileage 103073.